ITALY: Washington blocks Iraqis from speaking

September 7, 2005

John Catalinotto, New York

A group of right-wing members of the US Congress close to the Bush administration has pressured the Italian government into interfering with an October conference in Rome aimed at building solidarity with Iraqis fighting to liberate their country from its US occupiers.

The theme of the October 1-2 conference is "Leave Iraq in peace — support the legitimate resistance of the Iraqi people". The Italian government has refused visas to the representatives of Iraqi civilian organisations who have agreed to address the conference.

The Italy-based Free Iraq Committee, which has organised the conference, is campaigning to reverse the government's decision. Among other tactics, organisers are circulating a petition demanding the Iraqis be allowed in to Italy.

According to the Free Iraq Committee, Italy's embassy in Baghdad had earlier agreed to issue the visas. Then, on June 28, 44 members of the US Congress sent a letter to Italy's ambassador to the US demanding that the Italian government stop the conference.

Six weeks after this letter was sent, the Italian embassy in Baghdad said it was reversing its agreement, based on a decision of the foreign ministry.

The US members of Congress accused conference organisers of supporting "terrorism". They especially focused on one of the Free Iraq Committee's coalition members: the Anti-Imperialist Camp, which two years ago held a campaign to collect donations for the Iraqi resistance. Aside from 2000 euros used to send a cargo plane of medical supplies to Iraq from Austria, the AIC says the rest is being held to provide political support for whatever Iraqi political front is formed representing the resistance.

Among the more notorious US politicians involved is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. She is tightly connected with ultra- right Cuban counter-revolutionary groups in the Miami area that helped George Bush steal the 2000 presidential election. Florida Governor Jeb Bush managed her campaign in 1990. Ros-Lehtinen fully supported anti-Castro terrorist Orlando Bosch, who was connected with Luis Posada-Carriles and the bombing of a Cubana airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people. President George Bush senior pardoned Bosch.

Italy refused visas to Sheikh Jawad al Khalesi, leader of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress; Ayatollah Ahmed al Baghdadi; Salah al Mukhtar, former Iraqi ambassador to India and Vietnam; and Sheikh Hassan al Zargani, international spokesperson of the movement of Moqtada al Sadr, among others.

Among the prominent non-Iraqis on the conference speaker list are former Algerian president Ahmed Ben-Bella, philosopher Samir Amin and Philippine leftist leader Jose Maria Sison.

[Abridged from Workers World, weekly paper of the US Workers World Party. Visit <>.]

From Green Left Weekly, September 7, 2005.
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